Surrogacy in a pandemic: My story of giving birth during COVID-19
Giving birth is hard enough in normal circumstances, but throw in twins, two dads and a global pandemic, and you’re asking for trouble, right? Well actually, I had all of the above as a surrogate, but we had some incredible people around us who made the birth of beautiful twin girls a wonderful experience for us all.
The best laid surrogacy plans
Going back to week 22 when COVID-19 sent us all into lockdown, the previously quite social relationship between my intended parents (IPs) and I suddenly became virtual. The pandemic changed our team’s plans – as I’ve written about previously.
The only contact I had with IPs was at a distance at hospital appointments, as they themselves were not allowed in. They wanted to be there and happily came and sat in the car park so I knew I was supported and they were there if I needed them.
Once a week when they would go and do a food shop for me, so I didn’t personally have to venture out to the supermarket and put myself and their babies at any unnecessary risk. This was not in the plan! But we adapted to what was in front of us, we maintained a great relationship, and we kept counting down those days until the girls would finally be in their daddies’ arms.
Due to having cervical weakening and a suture insertion at 20 weeks, our plan was always to be induced around the week 36 mark, so from then on every week that passed felt like a real milestone. It was a long old countdown, but week 36 finally came! And we had decided that we really wanted to keep the hospital stay for the babies to as short a time as possible given the current circumstances, so we were booked in for induction on a Thursday at 36 weeks +4 days.
Preparing for the births
I had 4 previous vaginal births, and thankfully twin 1 was head down, so we were able to go with a natural delivery this time too. As it happens, the twins didn’t want to wait for our allocated 10am appointment time on labour ward, and my waters broke at 2am on one of my many trips to the bathroom the night before!
Having had a few previous quick deliveries, I didn’t want to hang around so my IPs hit the road straight away, from an hour away. I hotfooted it to the labour ward from my end, to get there as quickly as possible. The dads arrived before I had even left the labour ward reception, and they sat tight in the car park until one of them was allowed in, as per hospital protocol at the time.
Unfortunately for us, the labour ward was incredibly busy that day, and as I was not yet having any active contractions, I was sent to the maternity assessment bay. I was monitored throughout the day, and was having irregular contractions, but still no bed was available for me. Every time the doctor came to update me, another lady had come in further advanced than me and she got the bed instead! Frustrating really, but that’s how it goes. All this time, the dad were holed up in their car, or doing walking laps around the hospital grounds. They didn’t want to leave just in case something happened, but I really felt for them, not being able to come in.
Getting the dads into the delivery room
After a very long slow day, with none of us having much sleep at all, my contractions finally started in full force at 7pm that evening (36+4) and with no other option but to get me round to the labour ward. I was finally in a room with one of the daddies, and with the cervical suture out, at 10pm.
The other dad sat tight in the car awaiting news. We had a lovely midwife who was with us for the night, and she was really interested in our story; between contractions we were able to chat all about it. We were very lucky that she was so in awe of our story that she had a talk with the labour ward manager that night, and they agreed for the second daddy to be allowed into the delivery room, as our situation was very unique. We were all so amazed and grateful for this, and by midnight, the three of us were all there together.
The midwife showed the daddies how to massage my back, though honestly she did a much better job at that! I was plodding along with my gas and air, hoping I was making great progress as the contractions were coming thick and fast, but to my disappointment I was only 5cm dilated at the next examination at 2am. At that point I decided I couldn’t go another 4 hours with just the gas and air, so I had a dose of pethidine in the hope for some respite from the pain for a short while, but unfortunately that wasn’t meant to be.
6am arrived along with the next examination and I was still only 8-9cm dilated. I was exhausted, the daddies were exhausted and we just wanted this to be done now. Before we knew it the next consultant team came on the morning shift, and changed things up a bit as they could see I was flagging and wanted to help me deliver these babies naturally as planned.
Welcoming the babies
With another half shot of pethidine and a very proactive obstetrician in the room, I was able to get to the point where my body was absolutely ready to push. Having had such a long night of it, looking back now this bit all happened so quickly. I started to push at 11am, twin 1 was born at 11.14, and twin 2 arrived shortly after at 11.42, both happy and healthy little girls weighing in at 5lb 6oz and 5lb 7oz.
Laura with her children, holding her surrogate twins
There were tears all round. I literally sobbed my heart out when I saw the daddies with their baby girls in their arms having that wonderful skin to skin time. That moment right there is the reason why I am a surrogate.
It looked so different giving birth this time, with the world as it is, but the outcome remained the same. We planned as much as we could, and we resigned ourselves to the fact that the birth wouldn’t necessarily be as we would have wanted it, but as you see from my experience, people do understand that surrogacy is a little bit different, and when the time comes, we found that some wonderful people around us went that extra mile to make sure we were all together for the final stage of our journey.
By Laura Clarke, Client Manager & Brilliant Surrogate